A day after what appeared like a potential diplomatic breakthrough with the U.S., Iranian President Hassan Rouhani backed off the thought of direct talks with President Trump, saying Washington should first lift sanctions against Tehran.
After the G-7 Summit in France on Monday, Trump had mentioned that the leaders could meet, “if the circumstance were appropriate or proper.” Rouhani initially appeared warm to such a meeting, remarking, “I would not miss it.”
However, by Tuesday, Rouhani’s initial enthusiasm appeared to have ebbed. Unless the U.S. ended economic sanctions on Iran, he mentioned, any such meeting between the two leaders would be just a picture op and “that isn’t attainable.”
The continued stalemate probably comes as a disappointment to French President Emmanuel Macron, who has labored overtime trying to bring Trump and Rouhani to the desk, saying Monday that he hoped to see such a meeting in “coming weeks.”
At the G-7 held within the southwestern coastal city of Biarritz, Macron invited Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and other Iranian diplomats to the summit’s venue as he employed a form of shuttle diplomacy between them and Trump to try to work out the details of a high-level face-to-face, according to The Associated Press. The two sides haven’t had diplomatic relations since 1979. Trump last year unilaterally withdrew from an Obama-era international agreement that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
In recent months, Tehran has announced that it might cross limits imposed by the multi-national pact on the scale and potency of its nuclear stockpile.
Tehran has also been blamed for attacks on commercial tankers in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway using which much of the world’s oil transits.
In July after the U.K. seized an Iranian tanker thought to be carrying fuel to Syria in violation of international sanctions, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero.
The Iranian vessel was released earlier this month. However, the British ship is still being held.